Historic town hall still abandoned, years after fire


By Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik, GroundUP

The historic town hall in Komani (Queenstown) which burned down two years ago, has still not been restored. Nothing seems to have come of the investigation into the devastating fire in January 2022 either.

The sandstone building, which housed the Enoch Mgijima local municipality at the time of the fire, dates from 1882.

Today, only the facade, the bell tower and two memorial lampposts at the entrance – installed in 1915 – are still standing.

Lonwabo Kowa, spokesperson for the municipality, says the municipality and the insurer have still not agreed on the amount to be paid out.

Kowa did not disclose how much is needed for the repairs or how much the insurer is willing to pay.

Kowa did confirm that the town hall was insured at the correct value.

However, the UDM, DA and EFF say it came to light in a council meeting last year that the town hall is under-insured.

Mthuthuzeli Hokolo, chairman of the UDM in Chris Hani, says they have been told that the insurance company has agreed to pay only R6 million, which is not enough to repair the hall.

Zuko Mandile, chairman of the DA, and Xhanti Kanti, chairman of the EFF, confirmed this.

According to Mandile, R12 million is needed to repair the hall – more than half of what the insurance is willing to pay.

In the meantime, residents are asking that those responsible for the fire be handcuffed.

Komani Protest Action, now a political party led by residents who earlier led protests in Komani, claims the fire started after Falke visited the municipal offices.

“We insist that the town hall be restored and that those responsible be arrested. We believe the person responsible is part of the municipality because the fire started after Valke visited the municipality’s offices. Residents had nothing to gain from burning down the town hall – we just wanted better service delivery.”

Axolile Masiza, party secretary, says since the protests things have slowly improved.

“Street lights have been fixed, rubbish is now being picked up. Electricity has also been restored.”

Yolisa Mgolodela, spokeswoman for the Falcons, says an investigation into the fire was initiated at the time but later closed due to insufficient evidence.

  • This post is originally on GroundUp published and is used with permission on RNews.
  • This post is originally on GroundUp published and is used with permission on RNews.